Does bankruptcy for Chrysler mean death for Viper?

May 6th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Viper SRT10 fq

With Chrysler officially bankrupt things are now looking more dire than ever for the iconic Dodge Viper. Chrysler has been looking to sell the Viper line for a while and several potential buyers were reportedly being considered, but months down the line no deal has been announced. Now, Chrysler has announced it will be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy before restructuring in a new partnership with Fiat. But what’s to happen to the Viper?

According to recent reports from Detroit, Viper could face the axe, for real. Chrysler says it is still considering offers on the Viper line, but an early analysis of the company’s restructuring strategy suggests that the Viper is a financial liability for the company and will be dropped during the bankruptcy process. The Conner Avenue Assembly plant where 115 workers build the Viper is one of several earmarked for potential closure, along with many other Chrysler facilities. Fiat may not be too keen on keeping the Viper alive considering it’s a bad asset and Ferrari is a Fiat subsidiary.

It’s not only the Viper’s head on the chopping block with several trucks — including the Dodge Ram, Dakota and Jeep Wrangler facing the axe as Chrysler aims to streamline.

Chrysler bankrupt – Fiat merger going ahead

May 1st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat logo

Chrysler is officially bankrupt but there is still hope for the flailing automaker. Chrysler’s bankruptcy process is being pushed forward quickly to eliminate the remaining obstacles between Chrysler’s and Fiat’s planned merger. American President Obama’s made a speech yesterday reflecting this path, confirming both that bankruptcy is the only way forward, and that his task force finds a joined Fiat-Chrysler alliance to be viable.

“Over the past month, seemingly insurmountable obstacles have been overcome,” the President said during his speech. “Chrysler and Fiat have formed a partnership that has a strong chance of success.”

The combination of Fiat’s alliance and a speedy bankruptcy means that sales won’t be interrupted. Warranty service will continue now with a guarantee by the U.S. government. The Treasury will also be lending Chrysler an additional $7.5 billion to help it negotiate the waters of bankruptcy.

Between $3-$3.5 billion will come in the form of ‘debtor-in-possesion’ (DIP) financing, and another $4.5 billion will come as ‘exit financing’ to enable Chrysler to continue operation post-bankruptcy. Fiat will only be able to take control of Chrysler after the $7.5-$8 billion in loans have been repaid.

The Fiat-Chrysler alliance could be worth more than $10 billion for the struggling Detroit company and could potentially save more than 5,000 North American manufacturing jobs.

“This partnership transforms Chrysler into a vibrant new company with a wealth of strategic advantages,” said Chrysler boss Bob Nardelli. “It enables us to better serve our customers and dealers with a broader and more competitive line-up of environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient high-quality vehicles. Benefits to the new company include access to exciting products that complement our current portfolio, technology cooperation and stronger global distribution.”

Fiat will initially hold a 20% ownership stake in Chrysler. Fiat will have the right to increase its ownership stake an additional 15% in three increments as it meets the following criteria: 5% for bringing a 40mpg vehicle platform to Chrysler to be domestically produced 5% for providing a fuel-efficient engine family to be made in the U.S. for use in Chrysler vehicles; and 5% for providing Chrysler access to its vast global distribution network to facilitate the export of Chrysler vehicles.

“To be sure, there will be many changes as we move forward to implement our plans,” said Nardelli. “But today, from many great parts, we begin to build a vibrant new company with less debt, a stronger balance sheet, richer product portfolio, supported by a well-positioned finance company.”

Fiat saves Chrysler with a strategic partnership

January 21st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler announced yesterday that the troubled automaker has entered into a global strategic alliance with Fiat SpA, giving both companies access to each others’ products and markets. Fiat will also lend a hand in developing a business plan to present to the US Treasury; bringing with it experience gained through the Italian auto giant’s own restructuring. Chrysler now gets access to a range of small, fuel-efficient cars that are nothing like what is currently offered in American showrooms. Fiat’s engineering will be shifted over to some Chrysler manufacturing sites, keeping the plants busy and offering both brands ample capacity for the parts they will need to build cars.

in return for coming to the rescue Fiat will get a 35 percent equity interest in Chrysler and a way for the Italian automaker to re-enter the American market by suppling Chrysler the small cars it’s badly lacking. The partnership will go the other way, as well, with Chrysler vehicles gaining access to other markets through Fiat’s distribution avenues. With this new alliance Chrysler has dramatically increased its chances of not just survival but also possible future prosperity.

Chrysler PT Cruiser faces extinction

January 16th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler PT cruiser fq

The once coveted Chrysler PT Cruiser is facing extinction this year, and according to Chrysler President Tom LaSorda, the automaker is looking to sell the equipment used to build the PT Cruiser in Mexico.

Speaking with Bloomberg, LaSorda stated that Chrysler would sell its PT manufacturing assets but it doesn’t have any interested parties at this time.

Sales of the PT dropped in the states by 49% last year, with only 50,910 vehicles leaving dealer lots. That’s down from the PT’s domestic peak when Chrysler was able to offload 144,717 models in 2001. The PT’s demise doesn’t come as a surprise, particularly considering that Chrysler’s owner, Cerberus Capital Management, has slashed six other models from the automaker’s lineup since it took control in August 2007. The PT’s timely death will mean that the Chrysler badge is only attached to three American models: the Town & Country minivan, Sebring and 300C.

Chrysler to shut down all production

December 19th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler shut down

It’s no secret that Chrysler is having to fight harder than its Detroit brothers for survival, and the American automaker is pulling out all the stops to keep the lights on even if that means closing the doors. Chrysler is shutting down all of its plants for one month, beginning December 19. In a short release to the media, Chrysler blamed the continued credit crunch as the main reason for the shutdown, and is trying to realign its vehicle stock with consumer demand. Dealers have notified Chrysler that they’ve got plenty of perspective buyers, but up to 25% of customers are currently unable to obtain financing. So Chrysler plant workers will have a really long Christmas break at 95% pay, which can’t be too bad.

Chrysler’s move is far from unprecedented, though, as GM announced on Monday that it would be cutting production by 250,000 units in the first quarter of 2009. GM has also delayed production of its Flint engine plant. Toyota has also delayed plans to open its unfinished Mississippi plant, and Mitsubishi is closing its Illinois plant for seven weeks.

Chrysler confirms new vehicles for 2010

October 8th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Charger RT 2009 fq

Chrysler has ended speculation about what new products it will be rolling out in 2010, CEO Bob Nardelli confirmed there will be redesigned full-size vehicles. These will come in the form of a new Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 as well as a new Jeep. While these vehicles will not be exceptionally fuel efficient, Nardelli did stress that fuel-saving models are on their way due to Chrysler’s recent partnership with Nissan. The new vehicle Chrysler is predicted to put into production is the Dodge Hornet concept that has been around for the last couple of years.

The redesigned Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger will be highly important launches. Styling is expected to be very different since Ralph Gilles has taken over as head of design. We will have to wait and see.

Chrysler surges ahead with electric vehicles

September 24th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Jeep EV phantom

Chrysler has announced plans to introduce three electric-drive vehicle prototypes, only one will be selected for production for the North American market in 2010 and European markets the following year. The three options include a Dodge performance sports car, a Jeep SUV and a Chrysler people mover based on the popular Voyager platform.  As a joint project between Chrysler and the U.S Department of Energy, 100 electric vehicles are to be on the road in government, business, utility and Chrysler development fleets by 2009.

The Company said that it is well into the development of advanced, production-intent electric vehicles, and that it will apply electric-drive technology to its front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and body-on-frame four-wheel-drive platforms in the next several years.

“We have a social responsibility to our consumers to deliver environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient, advanced electric vehicles, and our intention is to meet that responsibility quickly and more broadly than any other automobile manufacturer,” said Bob Nardelli, Chairman and CEO — Chrysler.

Chrysler’s Electric Vehicles utilise just three primary components. These include an electric motor to drive the wheels, an advanced lithium-ion battery system to power the electric-drive motor and a controller that manages energy flow. The electric-drive system is being developed for front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, and body-on-frame four-wheel-drive vehicle applications. This technology provides customers with a vehicle that has zero tailpipe emissions and a 150- to 200-mile driving range.

The Range-extended Electric Vehicle technology combines the electric-drive components of the Electric Vehicle with a small petrol engine and integrated electric generator to produce additional energy to power the electric-drive system when needed.

In the Dodge EV sports car the 200 kW electric-drive motor generates 650 N¢m (480 lb.-ft.) of torque. The instant high torque of the electric-drive motor delivers outstanding performance, accelerating the Dodge EV to 60 mph in less than five seconds, with quarter-mile times of 13 seconds and a top speed of more than 120 mph.

To find out more check out www.Chryslergoeselectric.com

Chrysler Grand Voyager 2008 Review

July 23rd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

chrysler-grand-voyager-fq

The world craves entertainment. The more we have, the more we want. The more we want it, the more manufacturers pander to the stimulation of our eyeballs and the expansion of our waistlines.

There is no country that more epitomises this mantra than the USA. It has brought us Hollywood, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Oprah and Snickers. All designed to either stimulate or satiate.

Everywhere you go the benchmark is raised. Even my dentist has an LCD TV attached to his ceiling so that while he’s looking at tooth decay, I can be looking at adverts for products that cause it. Could this be some conspiracy theory?

Cars have not escaped the gradual slip towards anodyne comfort. Your average car now has several cup holders and a stereo that twenty years ago would have made first page news in any technology rag.

But the Chrysler Grand Voyager isn’t your average car. When it comes to MPVs — people-movers — the Grand Voyager is the grand daddy of them all. It stops short of the luxury of stratospherically priced limousines, but only just, and at a fraction of the cost.

A few years ago when I first drove a car with a DVD player and a screen in the dashboard I thought that was cool. And it’s not even that common now. But three screens?

The first screen is in the dashboard — the MyGIG touchscreen unit. The second screen is for the middle row of seats. Unusually, this consists of two armchair style seats (and there’s even an optional table configuration). The third screen is for the back row of seats — a three-seater bench which is angled slightly backwards so that your precious little ones don’t have to strain their necks backwards to watch the roof-mounted unit. This rear screen can be powered by a games console or external media player plugged into auxiliary inputs located in the rear.

Chrysler understands American children. They have to either be stimulated 100% of the time, or be on Ritalin. Consequently, the Grand Voyager contains several receptacles for cups with which to wash down the narcotics, should the entertainment systems not prove to be enough.

In another family-friendly stroke of genius the Grand Voyager’s rear seats electronically fold down to form a flat loading tray, or you can have them fold right the way back so that what was the three headrests now becomes three comfortable perches on the back of the tailgate — watch the rugrats play soccer in the rain, protected by the lifted tailgate.

he second row of seats also easily folds up (manually) into cavities in the floor just behind the front seats, giving a total load area of almost 3300 litres. This space (itself 118 litres) can be used for secret additional storage for a laptop or other valuables when out and about if the seats are up.

This ‘Stow n’ Go system is genius and gives you the flexibility to easily use the Grand Voyager to carry large loads like a van would.

I could honestly write a whole book just on the versatility of the entertainment system in this Chrysler. For a family with five needy children, though, all you need to be able to visualise is a long journey totally free from a) fighting siblings, b) ‘are we there yet’, and c) having to play ‘I spy’ and the like.

Yes, all you’ll have to do is periodically pull over to allow them to drain their child-sized bladders, grab another low-fat, kid-friendly snack, and merge back into the traffic. Actually, that’s not quite the only thing you’ll have to do because Chrysler has neglected to include much room in the footwell, meaning you can’t stretch out your left leg while driving. And the pedals are strangely skewed to the left — the first couple of times I when to push the brake pedal to put it in gear, I pushed the accelerator full to the floor.

How is it to drive, then? Well, it’s essentially a minivan with a whole lounge and entertainment system contained within, so make sure you take it easy around those corners. The Grand Voyager is quite large, quite heavy, and probably slightly under-tyred.

Typical of many American cars the 3.8-litre engine doesn’t put out as much power as you’d expect (only 142kW), but does manage a reasonable 305Nm of torque, and the lack of power means you can achieve fuel economy in the 10-11l/100km range.. The six-speed gearbox changes smoothly, and you’ll want to leave it in automatic because the gearstick is uncomfortably far away from the driver’s seat.

There’s so much more you can say about the Grand Voyager — the plethora of bag hooks, the umbrella holder, dual gloveboxes, tri-zone air conditioning, the torch in the rear, and the brilliant (and convenient) automatically opening and closing side doors and tailgate.

But wait, there’s more, as they say on the telly. No, you don’t get a set of kitchen knives, but I think I can still hear the stampede of jaded parents. The Grand Voyager is a triumph of passenger comfort, perhaps even the ultimate passengers’ car, but seemingly (unfortunately) at the expense of driving ergonomics. At $74,990 it will be a considered purchase, but it’s still much cheaper than many of the top-end SUVs (and limos).

Price: from $74,990

What we like

  • It’s a mobile audio/visual store
  • Seating and loadspace versatility
  • Cinema seating function — very cool
  • Despite its size, it’s easy to park with reversing camera and sensors

What we don’t like

  • Cramped footwell not good for long journeys
  • Pedal position
  • General driving ergonomics need work — gear lever too far away from the seat, for example

Chrysler Grand Voyager Specifications

  • Advanced multistage driver front-passenger airbags, supplemental side-curtain in all 3 rows, driver and front-passenger front seat-mounted side air bag
  • 3-zone automatic temperature control
  • 4-wheel disc ABS brakes
  • Overhead console includes interior observation mirror, sunglasses bin, switchable on/off lamps
  • Single rear overhead console system including 3 storage bins, 2x DVD screens, 2nd and 3rd-row swivel LED lamps and halo light ring
  • Electronic stalk mounted cruise control
  • Electronic Stability Programme, Brake Assist and all-speed traction Control
  • Front & rear fog lamps
  • Rearview, day/night autodimming interior mirrors
  • Power 8-way driver’s seat, dual power sliding doors and manual driver-seat lumbar adjust, power liftgate and power quartered vented windows
  • Rear Park Assist System
  • Remote Keyless/Illuminated Entry
  • Roof rack
  • Stow ‘n Go Seating and Storage System
  • MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System with 20GB hard disk drive
  • Infinity Acoustic Surround Sound – 9 amplified speakers with subwoofer
  • Power sunroof
  • Vehicle Information Centre
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
  • 17″ aluminium wheels
  • Power front one-touch up/down driver and front passenger and power 2nd-row

Words and photos Darren Cottingham